- The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A group of airline employees based at Dallas Forth Worth International Airport was indicted Monday by a federal grand jury for conspiring to smuggle counterfeit drugs and explosives on a commercial flight, the Department of Justice announced late Tuesday.

The grand jury indicted 10 individuals for their role in the scheme, which began in August 2016, according to court documents. At that time, the defendants smuggled a substance they thought was be methamphetamine onto a commercial airline.

Prosecutors said the defendants used their position at two commercial airlines to bypass security measures as they accepted payment for smuggling counterfeit drugs. The defendants also acted as “look-outs” or engage in counter-surveillance to undermine police, court documents said.

One of the defendants told undercover FBI agents that he could smuggle C-4 explosives on board a plane for $5,500 forcing agents to end the sting operation and make arrests, according to court filings.

No actual drugs or explosives were ever smuggled, according to authorities.

“We have zero tolerance for employees who seek to undermine and evade the security protocols at airports,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “Smugglers are constantly seeking new ways to move illegal contraband across the country and we will do whatever necessary to thwart these criminals at every turn. Working together with federal and local law enforcement partners, we continue to prioritize efforts to help mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.”

Each of the defendants faces one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a scheduled II controlled substance. The defendants were arrested Monday and will make an appearance in federal court later this week, the Justice Department said.

The indictment charges Nelson Pabon, 47, Jean Loui Vargas-Malave, 28, Juan Camacho Melendez, aka “Kendo Kaponi” and “Anthony,” 22, Ruben Benitez-Matienzo, 45, Jose Luis Gaston-Rolon, 24, Joshua Israel Pagan Zapata, 21, Domingo Villafane Martinez, III, 30, Luis Javier Collazo Rosado, aka “Luisito,” 21, Michael LNU, and Cristian David Cruz-Rodriguez, 23.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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